What is this all about?
In this issue, we see a refreshing yet new spin on the feud between Superman and Lex Luthor. Superman continues to serve humanity in the aftermath of the war with Zod and his team. While Superman is away saving the world, Lois and Jonathan miss Superman and decide they want to spend more time with him. This story is about optimism, perseverance, and heroism as Superman must overcome a longtime foe even while he faces a new threat.
The story begins with Lois communicating to Superman that his son misses him and that they both want him to come home. The writer communicates effectively and poignantly the emotions Lois is feeling and the tug this has on Superman. Her face clearly shows her frustration over his absence mixed with her desire to have Superman nearby. The use of art to depict emotion and tone adds to the effectiveness of this exchange. The narrative shows Superman in a familiar light, bringing hope to the situation.
The story transitions to a new threat that Superman must respond to; wolves and men controlled by The Machinist are killing people in the Caucasus Mountains. Superman quickly learns that responder chips used to control his enemies were developed by Lex Luthor. The art demonstrates an angry and determined Superman rushing off to confront Lex. The art shows a muscle-bound Superman in his bright blue and red uniform, which brings me back to an earlier age. Superman is powerful, larger than life, and acts with conviction. This was a refreshing to the Superman stories of years past.
Lex Luthor’s inner monologue re-introduces us to the longstanding dynamic between Superman and Lex Luthor: “Human beings are complex and confused. We are not binary, good or evil. He, Superman, however, is good. It is so easy to resent him.” Does Lex have a problem with Superman’s notoriety and power? Or, is it that Lex has a problem with Superman simply, because he is always good?
When confronted about the responder chips, Lex Luthor convinces Superman that his chip was stolen and that he had no intention of committing a crime. The facial expressions of both Superman and Lex are powerful. They depict righteous indignation in Superman and a smug and prideful Lex Luthor who is defiant, yet honest.
In the end, they quickly agree to join forces to stop and punish The Machinist for his heinous act. The writer and artist work in tandem to flush out the characters’ affectivity with faces full of expression and narrative responses full of vehement emotions. The cyclic and almost labile changes in mood, from intense anger and rage to rapport and deciding to working together, feels familiar to the comics of the past.
Superman and Lex locate The Machinist and engage him in combat. While Lex’s thoughts are on who’s the greatest, Superman is noticing the gravity of the situation and trying to protect Lex. For example, in his pride, Lex thinks about Superman, “If only you knew what this suit could really do,” while Superman is rushing to protect him from an incoming missile.
The representation of Superman as a deity and above all is demonstrated throughout the book through his righteous anger, protecting the innocent, and demanding justice. Lex’s anger with Superman’s goodness is also evident throughout the story line. It will be interesting to see if Lex’s suit is strong enough to allow him to fight Superman. It will be even more interesting to see Superman continue to maintain his hopeful perspective as he now has two foes instead of one.
Reviewed by Tom Zimm
Action #985 – Only Human
Written by Rob Williams
Art by: Guillem March, Hi-Fi, Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: 08/09/2017